Bale fit to help give Wales the final push

Gareth Bale has accounted for six of the nine goals in Wales' Euro 2016 qualification quest, and will hope to add more to secure their qualification.
Gareth Bale has accounted for six of the nine goals in Wales' Euro 2016 qualification quest, and will hope to add more to secure their qualification.PHOTO: REUTERS

ZENICA (Bosnia and Herzegovina) • Gareth Bale says he is fit and raring to go as Wales look to end their 57-year wait to qualify for a major football tournament by booking a place at Euro 2016.

Chris Coleman's side head into their last two Group B qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina today and at home to Andorra on Tuesday. They need just one point to guarantee their berth at an elite event for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.

Wales, who have never appeared at the European Championship, will be able to start planning their trip to France for next year's Finals if they beat or draw with Bosnia.

They could even make it with a defeat, if third-placed Israel lose or draw with Cyprus.

After the frustration of failing to seal qualification in a nervous draw with Israel last month, Coleman's unbeaten group leaders have a second chance to make history when they head to the Stadion Bilino Polje in Zenica.

And, crucially for Wales' hopes, Real Madrid forward Bale is back to full fitness after suffering a calf injury last month that kept him out for three weeks.

The former Tottenham star, who was voted Welsh player of the year for a record fifth time on Monday, has been the key figure in his country's surprise push to reach Euro 2016, scoring six of Wales' nine goals and setting up two.

Now, he wants to finish the job against Bosnia. "We have been working hard for many years to be in this position," he said. "We have all been playing with each other for six to eight years. The manager has come in and been amazing.

"I have prepared well for the last couple of weeks with my rehab. We are all on board, ready to go.

"The calf is okay.

"It was a nice 20 minutes to open it up and get the legs going ready for the next two games."

Although they have never beaten Bosnia in their three meetings, including a goalless draw in Cardiff earlier in the current qualifying campaign, Bale's confidence reflects a belief in the Wales camp that their time has come at last.

Welsh legends like Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush and Mark Hughes never made it to a major international tournament.

The last time the nation came close to qualifying was in 2004 when they were beaten by Russia in a European Championship play-off.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'Bale fit to help give Wales the final push'. Print Edition | Subscribe